Dutch artist and inventor Theo Jansen has created something truly remarkable. Most probably, you haven’t seen anything like this before. His kinetic sculptures, called “Strandbeests,” or beach beasts, are huge skeletal constructs that are designed to move powered solely by the energy of the sea breeze.
Jansen’s insect-like creatures are made from ordinary plastic tubes and move without the use of electronics. The artist has also equipped his beasts with recycled plastic bottles, valves and pumps. Moreover, using air pressure, he has managed to give them an analog of muscles and nerves and even something similar to the brain, able to respond to the surrounding environment.
Having studied the results of various evolutionary experiments and having made numerous calculations, the artist found a way to give his sophisticated beasts sensory mechanisms that enable them to detect water, sense the hardness of the sand and the strength of the wind, and avoid obstacles. How incredible is that? It’s no surprise that some people call Jansen a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci.
“They are blind and deaf and they have to navigate somehow,” the artist told Gizmag. “You can do a lot with compressed air. They have a sort of tongue, which is a long tube and as soon as air pressure is in there, it can feel if the sand is even or uneven, i.e. if it is hard sand or soft sand. It steers away from the soft sand, towards the sea.”
Jansen, who has been developing wind-powered kinetic sculptures for over two decades, aspires to create an entirely independent artificial animal. For this purpose, he integrates more senses and principles into each new creature he designs. Now the artist is working on the ability to migrate which he is mastering with his new beast called the Plaudens Vela (fluttering sail beast), which is able to walk even at a low wind speed.
“Within the next 20 years I want the animals to be independent from me, so they take their own decisions – when to walk on the beach, what to anchor themselves against during storms or when to move away from the water,” Jansen told BBC.
This sounds like an ambitious plan, but seeing how these artificial structures walk on the beach like if they were living creatures is quite convincing on its own. Check out the video below to see it for yourself: